On the recommendation of Oscar Peterson, O'Neal portrayed Art Tatum in the 2004 movie Ray, convincingly recreating Tatum's sound on the song "Yesterdays". A 2006 DVD "Tight" captured O'Neal at the height of his powers. Included is an interview with pianist Mulgrew Miller, who stated,
"In my generation of musicians there are two who are probably the most naturally talented. They both happen to be from Detroit. One is Kenny Garrett, the well-known saxophonist. The other is pianist Johnny O'Neal."
"There are so many outstanding things about Johnny's playing. Two or three of the most outstanding: number one, the touch. Johnny has a million dollar touch. Very few people touch the piano like that to get that kind of sound and feeling.... The other thing is his feeling of swing, which is so natural. Then there's Johnny's personality, so engaging. And Johnny can play a ballad like few people, if any. I've always held his talent in the highest regard, and I think he's a very special artist."